Interview with Niharika Bhargava | The Little Farm

The Little Farm

The little farm co. , own and manage farms in Madhya Pradesh where we produce fruits, vegetables and spices using organic fertilisers and local seeds. We have recently started producing Pickles and Superfoods as a natural sequence for value addition at our farms. Here we handcraft pickles after sun drying the products using traditional recipes. All our employee force for our products are women belonging to the lower section of society who have faced domestic violence or are single parents struggling to support their family. We closely work with Asha NGO who helps us recruit these women.

Our market survey indicated that most products (pickles) available in the market today are produced using mechanized processes and are filled with additives and preservatives to increase shelf life and provide stability to the product. These products somehow do not have the same appeal or taste as hand-made/home-made pickles do.

Therefore our endeavour is to provide customers with pickles that are farm fresh, preservative and additive free using traditional recipes and that taste exactly as pickles used to before modern food processing industry started.

As we do not use any preservatives or additives, some of our pickles may be seasonal in nature (those which expire in 6 months or less). However, the pickles with 1 year plus expiry should be available almost year round. The Super-foods are available throughout the year.

1. What gets you out of bed in the morning i.e what’s your source of motivation?

I was working in a digital marketing company before this, and just working for myself is the biggest motivation. As the hours that I put in are towards building my own dreams and achieving my own goals not someone else.

2. Why should people choose your product/services?

Our market survey indicated that most products (pickles) available in the market today are produced using mechanized processes and contain additives and preservatives to increase shelf life and provide stability to the product. These products somehow do not have the same appeal or taste as hand-made/home-made pickles do.
As opposed to mass-produced pickles, we have own certified organic farms in Khajuraho, M.P. At the farms in, we grow ours on fruits and vegetables which we further pickle. The oil (cold pressed sesame and mustard) used in our pickles is made from scratch. 85% of the spices used are grown at own farms. The rest (including the rock salt) is sourced from screened & known sources. Instead of sugar, instead use Khaand, which is unprocessed sugar without any chemicals. No preservatives, additives, stabilisers or artificial colours. Even the vinegar that we use is made of sugarcane and without any chemicals.

Therefore our endeavour is to provide customers with pickles that are farm fresh, preservative and additive free using traditional recipes and that taste exactly as pickles used to before modern food processing industry started. 
Not just healthy we also look at taste. We are constantly on the lookout for age-old and forgotten recipes with the aim of reviving them and bring them to the consumer’s table in the hope of reminding them of the generations gone by.

3. What’s your competitive advantage and why can’t it be copied?

We deal in farm to fork products, where quality is controlled by us, from the seed to the value additions till the final product. We don’t see anyone in the market doing that yet in our sector. Mass produced brands add additives and preservatives. People doing homemade pickles cant scale and only do it in small batches and have to buy raw materials from the market. Apart from that, food is one sector where taste plays a major factor. We take great pride in our recipes which have been collected from all over India. If one of our products recipe reminds them of what their mother or grandmother used to make they are bound to come back and make a repeat purchase.

4. What risks are you facing?

More than risk I would say challenge. The challenge that we are facing is educating the customer in terms of eating right and healthy. Also educating them to differentiate between organic and inorganic.
With so many brands entering the organic market it is of utmost importance to also differentiate your product and make sure all your USP’s are communicated the right way. When the organic laws become stringent in India, half of the companies that we see selling in the name of organic would not be around.

5. Have you considered any alliance/partnership?

Not yet, but we are looking for an alliance if the person can bring some value to the table in terms of retail or exports.

6. What are your cash flow projections? When will you break even? How much will you need in investments?

Its been 2.5 years and we have broken even. Right now we are looking at government grants to mechanise are packaging in order to start exports.

7. What comes first for you money or emotions?

I think to run a business and build a brand it has to be a balance of both. You cant blindly be driven to either. To build a brand you have to take the leap of faith and take risks but economics also have to make sense.

8. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strength: Our product, we are a farm to fork brand. We grow our own raw material and I feel that is our biggest strength as we are maintaining the quality at every stage. 

Weakness: Supply Chain and Logistics. Our farms are located in a remote part of M.P so logistics is an issue we are still working on.

9. Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.

In 2018, The Little Farm Co. got awarded the 3rd women astitva samman by the Women and Child development Committee of PHD chamber of Commerce for the women that we are supporting in M.P around our farms.

10. How do you handle the pressure?

I don’t feel much of pressure, to be honest, I take each day as it comes. Also, I try to delegate as much as possible, as we try to play to the strengths of each of our team members that make the job a lot easier.

11. If you sold your company today, what would be the tone of the conversation? What would you want to gain? What would you want to avoid losing?

Honestly, I am not looking at selling my company in the near future. The farms are on family land and most of the recipes came from my dad. And I don’t think someone else would be able to hold the same passion that we do. We are trying to build a brand for the generations to come.
But yes if we do find an investor who can add some value in terms of exports or retail we shall consider to partner.

12. What advice would you give to someone starting out?

If you have a great idea or passion for something do try it for sure. You wouldn’t get to know if it works till you go out there and try to make it happen. If our work fulfils us thats what makes us ultimately happy.


RAHUL ANAND

Rahul Anand (born October 4, 1997) is an Indian Entrepreneur, Blogger and Author. He is Founder and CEO of EduFlick and The IndianPreneur.

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